«Sustainably addressing clients’ requirements in a specialized investment universe is key.»
Head of Products & Distribution at Twelve Capital Ltd
Nils Ossenbrink is in charge of Products & Distribution at Twelve Capital, an asset manager focused on the insurance sector. It primarily serves institutional clients from its offices in Zurich, London, and Munich and manages assets totaling around CHF 4 billion across all of the sector’s asset classes. Before joining the company, Nils was Deputy Head of Investment Solutions at EFG Bank and worked at Bank Sarasin & Co. Ltd for many years. As Head of Products and Services at Sarasin, his responsibilities included developing the group’s fund business. Nils began his career as a management consultant with a consulting firm in Germany focused on the financial industry and opened its Zurich office, which he also managed, in 1997. He studied business administration at the University of Münster, majoring in finance, capital markets, and bank management.
Nils Ossenbrink, what does success mean to you?
Success has many aspects, and your personal portfolio of successes should reflect that. You need to strike a healthy balance between personal and professional fulfillment, and you shouldn’t let the search for either take over your life. Things that are very important to me include being part of a happy family and tackling sporting challenges together with my friends.
Naturally, my focus as Head of Products & Distribution at Twelve Capital lies elsewhere. One of our central goals is to provide investment solutions as a team that meet investors’ expectations over the long term. This is as demanding as it is essential in a competitive industry like ours.
What was the best decision you have taken in your career?
My career hasn’t been defined by a «best» decision. There have been some important steps along the way, such as broadening my horizons with further training despite enjoying my first job as a forex trader or accepting the job offer that brought me to Switzerland. That said, my career’s really been guided by flexibility and openness to new ideas. That’s what has made it so interesting, and it’s what led me to Twelve Capital. Our enterprising corporate culture and high level of expertise in a specialized area of investment put me in a good position to reflect on this question in a very relaxed way.
What is it that motivates you?
Generally speaking, I’d say it’s a passion for solving complex or otherwise challenging tasks, both in my work and in my private life. I’m currently working hard to further enhance the appeal of our insurance debt and ILS investments, among other things, for example by fully implementing the principles of sustainable investing and tailoring our products even more precisely to investors’ needs.
What was the biggest challenge you faced at the start of your career?
I’ve enjoyed a very long career in the financial industry, and it has included a few challenging situations. Sadly, it feels like financial crises, restructuring, and the never-ending search for potential cost savings have become the norm. Refusing to accept them as «normal», remembering that there are people behind them, and in particular working toward sustainable solutions for the future are thus key challenges. The current coronavirus pandemic and climate change show very clearly where the focus must lie.
Who do you think of when you hear the word «successful»?
My answer’s sure to differ over time. I’ve met a lot of successful people. At the moment, Hansi Flick, manager of FC Bayern Munich, comes to mind. He’s succeeded in taking a group of above-average players who weren’t tapping into their full potential, playing attractive football or winning much before he arrived and turning them into the best team in Europe in just a few months. Besides his professional abilities as a trainer, he clearly has great leadership skills that have made every individual player perform better and brought them all together as an effective team. These are the sort of strengths managers need in asset management too. It helps to think outside the box.
If you were having dinner with Warren Buffett, what question would you ask him?
Assuming this isn’t fake news, Warren Buffett reportedly has a very old-fashioned diet. He drinks a lot of cola and favors classic American food like burgers, fries, and ice cream. I’d like to know his secret to staying in shape despite this rather poor nutrition and whether he still thinks Coca-Cola is a better investment than Beyond Meat.
How do you achieve that crucial work/life balance?
My best form of stress relief and personal equivalent of mindfulness training is taking regular tours on my bike. One of the few positive effects of this year’s lockdown for me was that it gave me a lot more scope for cycling.
What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in asset management today?
I recently read the book «Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World», and that title really speaks to me. Breadth, openness, and continual development should be the cornerstones of training. Specifically, I’d advise someone who’s starting out to develop not just very good knowledge of financial and capital market theory but also IT skills and an understanding of psychology. This will set them up to keep pace with the advancing digital transformation of our industry while also remembering that people remain at the center of our increasingly technology-driven world.
What swearword do you use most often?
That’s a great question. We all have our favorites, but we don’t dare to talk about them – until we’re on the tennis court. I’d like to refer to two books here, both of which are unlikely to feature on the shortlist for any prize, but they were well worth a read at particular moments in the past: «Assholes: A Theory» and «The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life».
What are you thankful for?
I’m in a very privileged position. I’ve got a great family, lots of interesting friends, and a job I enjoy. It’s important to acknowledge that, which makes my answer easy: I’m thankful for the wide range of opportunities modern society offers us and for the invaluable support from so many people that’s helped me to get where I am today.
What book are you reading at the moment?
One my daughter recommended: «Humankind: A Hopeful History». It’s about human nature. Contrary to traditional western thought, the book argues that people are not fundamentally bad but actually decent and kind. If we assume that this is true, it says, we can arrive at a new and optimistic view of the world and its people. It’s a good attitude for our times.
If you could choose any country, where would you like to live and why?
It wasn’t strategic planning that brought my wife and me to Switzerland 23 years ago, but it was definitely a good move. I suppose we did choose this country in the end. Switzerland’s very diverse and mixes traditional values with a flair for innovation. It feels right from both professional and personal viewpoints.